Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Rabbi Jeremy Gordon: carrying heavy loads lightly

Our identity is formed in wandering and in dislocation. Even before Egypt and the oft repeated Biblical instruction to do right by the stranger because ‘you were strangers in the land of Egypt,’ even before the centuries of exile and displacement, we were a dislocated people.

Dislocation imbues a creativity, a sharpness of vision that comes from living a life less-normal. In particular dislocation changes the way a person relates to values. A wanderer doesn’t set great store by bricks and mortar. Rather splendour can be gauged by measure of hospitality offered; any simple act of kindness will do.

Moreover the stranger, by their very nature, needles the societies they appear in. The wanderer is a walking provocation to the status quo. Our very existence presents a novel experience for the societies around is, something new needs to be countenanced. We, us wanderers, push our face—pink, or black, or shrouded in a veil, or wreathed in a turban—up against the window and ask questions about toleration, pluralism and possibility. These are deeply valuable questions; they offer a measure of societal decency. And they are questions that can only be asked in the presence of one who is different.

Dislocation and wandering are great blessings, they are also heavy loads. Those who can walk lightly carrying such weight deserve the highest praise. And Ester was such a person.